Odissi’s next chapter

THIS time, when the agile dancers of Sutra Dance Theatre take to the stage, their movements will unveil the continuing truth about Odissi — of its evolution.

Odissi’s directional change is only natural as it is a mark of progress in recognising traditional form while incorporating modern adaptions to the dance.

Its artistic director Ramli Ibrahim said Odissi’s contemporary repertoire as presented by Sutra displays this evolution.

“All these years, we have brought the Malaysian audience to explore Odissi’s growth,” he said at an interview at his home in Petaling Jaya on the upcoming Odissi Stirred presented by Maxis and Sutra Foundation.

He said Odissi Stirred was an expression of the contemporary choreographer, in preparing the audience for the 21st century.

“When you talk about modern dance, it has to be given a Western slant where in the West modern movements are against classical dance.

“Modernity in the Asian context is a continuum which permits continuity of a dance form and I am determined not to be bogged down by the perception of traditionality,” said Ramli who is also the foundation’s chairman.

As such, Odissi Stirred held from April 6 to 10 was born out of this determination.

In this explosive stage performance, the audience can expect to witness the works of contemporary Odissi choreographers — Sharmila Biswas (Kolkata), Madhavi Mudgal (New Delhi), and Ramli Ibrahim and Guna (Kuala Lumpur).

True to the art, the choreographer is inspired by the Odissi tradition and reveals its rural and folk charm, incorporating elements of its originality while transcending into modernity as the moves are mesmerisingly surreal and captivating.

“The Indian choreographers I have chosen to work with are the best in India, specifically in works on Odissi and they all perform the dance in its classical repertoire,” he said.

The 20min dance sequence entitled Evocations is Sharmila’s attempt in evoking the pulse of Odissi by injecting its component elements — tribal, folk, sabda (traditional verses cited in declamatory fashion) and the percussion (ghanta [cymbal] and mardala [drum]) traditions.

These are the essential elements that contribute to the present ‘re-constructed’ contemporary Odissi repertoire and Sharmila reminds the audience of the rich folk traditions of dance and drumming of Orissa.

The sophisticated Madhavi, Ramli said, delves into exploring the classical dance to project the clean and fine lines of tribal and folk dance form of Odissi.

“Classical dance is a stylisation and Madhavi showcases the refinement of the dance and its music,” he added.

Pallavan is a 23min composition by Madhavi, who is one of India’s celebrated Odissi dancers and dance makers which is mainly a pure dance that celebrates the architectonics of Odissi through the vehicle of the female body and spirit.

Ramli and celebrated dancer Guna worked tirelessly to deliver Kamala — a collage of images that is rich and complex featuring a monopoly of female dancers and a sole male performer.

In this 20min performance, Kamala explores the concept of devotion and piety inspired by Eastern and Western mythic images related to the ‘Mother Goddess’, the Madonna and Shakti. The lotus and the rose, flowers of great joy and delight, represent metaphors of auspiciousness, beauty and grace.

Images of Purusha, Siva and Jesus provide the complement Male Principle.

“Kamala explores the many images of the goddess as she is the congeal concept of woman, she can be benign and also destructive.

“And out of this woman too, we find that she is a mother and the nurturer,” Ramli reflected.

In conjunction with the event, an exhibition entitled Continuum by Sivarajah Natarajan and Chelian will be showcased at the venue as well.

The shows on April 6, 7, 8 and 10 will kick off at 8pm at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLpac). Tickets are priced at RM33⁄RM53.

For details, call 03-4047 9000 or 03-4021 1092 (Sutra), fax 03-4023 2548, email sutradancetheatre@yahoo.com or visit www.sutrafoundation.org.my.

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